You have to learn the rules of the game. And then you have to play better than anyone else.
~ Albert Einstein
How to play Go? Go is a relatively simple board game that is very strategic in many ways similar to chess in strategy if not in regulation.
Go is in fact one of my favourite games because it lives up to the OPOB philosophy of simplicity and light abundance. The simplicity will become clear when we get to the rules of Go in just a minute. It is abundant because you can buy the board game Go for around $25 or so depending on how fancy you want to get, and each game is like a new puzzle that unravels before your eyes.
For $25 you can have an infinite amount of fun with this adversarial game.
It originated in China around 2,000 years ago. Around the time of Christ, which is way back in the day! In fact, Go seems to be at least 500 years older than Chess which came about in India around the 6th century.
A quick overview of Go
The basic idea behind the game of Go is to capture more territory than one’s opponent is able to. In the beginning the board starts to get filled with black and white stones where the strategy is very important and can often take a player years to fully appreciate the intricacies involved.
For example, even placing the first stone can carry repercussions into a play one hundred turns later.
So in Go, you are looking to both capture as much territory as possible while at the same time attacking your opponent’s week groups which are generally groups that can be killed, while trying to keep your groups alive.
Naturally as the game progresses and more of the points (spaces/intersections) on the board get used up, more attacking normally occurs.
The pieces you play with are either black or white “stones” which nowadays can be made of anything. You need to keep in mind that stones need “liberty” to stay alive and on the board. Liberty is an intersection or “space” that is open next to a stone. A liberty that is surrounded by stones is called an “eye”. A group of stones needs at least 2 eyes to be considered unconditionally alive.
Dead stones have one or no eyes and are called dead as they will eventually succumb to capture.
How do you win at the game Go?
Winning at the game of Go is all about obtaining the most points. And this is how it works.
When all the stones have been played – or all stones that can be played are played – the points are added up for each player. Each vacant intersection within your territory gets one point. Each “prisoner” (stone) you captured of your opponent earns you one point. The player with the most points combined is the winner.
The board and stones used in the game Go
We’ve spoken quite a bit about the overall approach in Go as well as how to win Go. But what are we playing with and what are we playing on?
The board that the game Go is played on comes in 3 sizes nowadays. The standard size which is made up of 19 x 19 lines intersecting. 19 horizontal lines and 19 vertical lines. This obviously creates the intersections which on this size board total 361.
Beginners are often taught Go on a boars that is 9 x 9. And for a quicker game a board of 13 x 13 is often used.
The stones come in black and white. One player gets black and the other player gets white. For a standard board of 19 x 19 you’ll get 181 black stones and 180 white stones. Enough for the 361 intersections on the board.
Black gets an extra stone because black goes first, but this is generally not considered a benefit or a detriment.
The rules of Go
This is just a brief overview of the rules of Go. It is recommended that you buy a game of Go which will come with the full and detailed rules. These are just here to whet your appetite and give an overview of the main points and strategy of the game.
Black goes first. Each player then takes turns to place a stone on one of the intersections.
Stones that have been played can not be removed from the board unless captured by your opponent and taken as prisoner. If you are able to surround an opponent’s stones, thereby eliminating your opponents liberties for that stone you get to capture it and take it off the board.
You can capture more than one stone at a time. But because stones share liberties, you have to eliminate all liberties associated with those stones.
You can’t play a stone into a space or intersection where it would leave that stone or group of stones of yours without any liberties.
Along with capturing your opponent’s stones you are also looking to surround territory or intersections that will count as points in your favour. Think of these as keeping as many of your liberties open as possible while keeping your opponent’s stones away from capturing your liberties.
One other rule worth mentioning is the Ko rule. The Ko rule basically means that you can’t play the last position again right away. So if you were captured, you can’t just go on in and place a new stone in that last captured stones place. You have to play elsewhere first and then you can go back if that position is still open on your next turn.
This is a very simplified overview of Go, but it should help you get the gist of it. I’d recommend buying a cheap Go set and playing to get more familiar with it.